Doctor's Murder a Step Back For Pro-Life Movement

Murder of abortion doctor creates backlash to pro-life movement

By Robert A. George
|  Tuesday, Jun 2, 2009  |  Updated 2:21 AM EDT
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Doctor's Murder a Step Back For Pro-Life Movement

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Rev. Patrick Mahoney (2nd R) of the Christian Defense Coalition, with other abortion opponents, speaks at a news conference outside the U.S. Supreme Court to condemn the killing of Dr. George Tiller. Like other pro-life groups, Mahoney deplored Tiller's murder.

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The killing of abortion doctor George Tiller -- allegedly by one Scott Roeder, currently in custody in Wichita -- comes at the worst possible time for the anti-abortion movement.

Just when the movement appeared to be making substantial gains in the court of public opinion, this radical may have forced things back several years.

Make no mistake, President Obama's speech at Notre Dame -- attempting to create a middle rhetorical ground, if not a political one -- was delivered by a canny politician who knows which way the wind is blowing. It was given at the same time that a Gallup poll was released showing a bare majority of Americans now want more regulations on abortion.  According to Gallup, " about as many Americans now say the procedure should be illegal in all circumstances (23%) as say it should be legal under any circumstances (22%). This contrasts with the last four years, when Gallup found a strong tilt of public attitudes in favor of unrestricted abortion."

Thesenumbers should encourage the pro-life movement in a good way.

Instead, the murder of an abortion doctor is an act of desperation. It sends a signal that the pro-lifers are losing hope in their message -- even as that message is at its most influential. Instead, Roeder's ugly and stupid act may now re-energize the pro-choice activists. Noting that Tiller had previously been harassed and attacked by extremist pro-lifers, pro-choicers will undoubtedly argue that more federal protections are necessary.

They will undoubtedly start pressuring the Obama administration into signing the Freedom of Choice Act, legislation which (from the pro-life perspective) codifies Roe v. Wade as federal law -- and overturns reasonable restrictions such as parental notification. Pro-life groups also believe that it would make it easier to shut down legal protests outside of Planned Parenthood and other organizations that perform or counsel abortion services. Obama said recently that FOCA was not a "highest legislative priority." Better believe that the Tiller murder will change the calculus on that -- whether Obama wants it or not.

Which is why -- for the pro-life community -- Scott Roeder has committed an act that is not merely objectively evil, but politically stupid as well.

Robert A. George is a New York writer. He blogs at Ragged Thots. 

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